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K13.5 billion rentals choke ministry

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By Wezzie Gausi:

The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Wednesday asked the Transport and Public Infrastructure Committee of Parliament to help in lobbying for more funding part of which should be used for settling accumulated office rentals amounting to K13.5 billion.

The ministry is responsible to paying rentals for public offices that have been allocated space in private property due to inadequate space in government structures.

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Addressing the committee at Parliament in Lilongwe, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Bernard Sande, also disclosed that the ministry has several projects it wants to implement but cannot do that due to financial challenges.

“Our estimated budget, for the ministry to run five main projects, is about K29.8 billion but not all the money is channeled to the ministry. The K13.5 billion Kwacha arrears have accumulated because the Ministry keeps on receiving minimal allocation in the budget as per required.

“For the ministry to have its own building is a welcome development but we are not so sure how much it would cost to build a standard building at Capital Hill. Definitely, it is on the higher side than paying rentals, but like the way the committee has said, we will make sure we come up with solutions,” Sande said.

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Chairperson of the Transport and Public Infrastructure Committee of Parliament, Robert Mwina, said they want the ministry to tell them their plans on how they are going to solve their problems before the committee can come in to help.

Mwina said last year the ministry told the committee the same challenges.

“We want to know for how long the Ministry of Lands will continue renting offices. As a committee, we are ready to help but first we need to know when they are building their own offices,” Mwina said.

Parliamentary committees are meeting government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) so that they can appreciate the MDAs’ plans and challenges especially in line with the estimates that they have been allocated in the national budget that was presented in Parliament last week.

The committees lobby for more funding if they have been convinced that any public entity deserve more than what it is allocated.

Some offices for MDAs have been sealed before due to non-payment of rentals with the property owners accusing the Ministry of Lands of laxity in settling the arrears.

In January this year, the Office of Ombudsman was sealed due to similar issues.

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